Blogophilia 48.10 – JamieVs2 – Part 3
It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. This week’s prompts are:
And this week we finish Jamie vs 2 – which turned out much superior to version 1. Hoping to get it edited this week and get the cover and such done and get it uploaded to Smashwords by Friday so Griselda can follow the next week. We’ll see. I think Jorick will be the next story I write – I took a poll but I think I am going to ignore the results as, having gone back over the other stories, I think it needs to be the story of when he quit the Executioners. As it is, most of the stories kind of interweave, with Beldren, Jamie, and Lisiantha being the exceptions, and so they all end up kind of creating a longer story form different points of view. Since Jorick’s revolt gets mentioned in more than one of them, I think it needs to be the story we see. However, people want his origin story,, so I think I’ll try to do it for an anthology that will be released in June or July.
Anyway, on to Jamie!
Though Jamie had to stay, he didn’t have to see his sister, or her traitorous husband. In the evening he reached the kitchen before they did to find four carafes waiting. He took his back to his room, and left it outside the door where someone retrieved it, though he had no idea who. Just as he had no idea who took care of any of the day to day things, or how they were done. He’d never been too involved; the steward handled the other servants and oversaw the menial tasks, and the steward reported to the laird, which had always been his father. Now, of course, it was Androu.
His name tasted bitter on Jamie’s tongue, still he spoke it aloud to the darkness. The shadows gave no reproach for the curses, but neither did they agree, only clung to the corners of the rooms in silence.
Jamie had forsaken his bedchambers for new rooms. The memory of Margarete hung in every stone, every brick. The warmth of her laugh, the light in her eyes, the way she languidly brushed her long red hair. In future, he told himself, he’d want to revisit such ghosts, but now they were too painful, like salt on an open wound.
And so he hid away, blocked off in the upper rooms of the east wing, watching nights crawl past. Eagan visited him ocassionally, to try to tempt him from his self-imposed isolation. After six months had passed, he tried a new tactic.
“Ya may not wish ta see yer sister, but yer nephews wish ta see ya, lad. Would ya deny them? Ya cannae have children of yer own any longer, save for passing on yer blood ta another as has been done to ye. Those bairns are the only lineage yer or yer father will have. And they love ya.”
“They don’t know me,” Jamie muttered darkly. Though even he knew it was a lie. “Fine. They may come now an’ again.”
Eagan brought them the very next night, a game board under his arm, as if it was playtime. Now and again became a monthly visit, and by early spring had turned weekly. The boys learned quickly not to mention their parents, for one word about either, and Jamie would send them out immediately. Instead their conversation turned to their lessons, to their old memories, and a longing to relive some.
“Will ya take us riding again?”
“No,” Jamie said gruffly. He’d visited the stables once, to find Margarete’s horse missing. That his own was gone, he knew keenly, but his wife’s…Had it died of a mysterious fever as well?
Simon, the younger child, frowned. “Why won’t ya leave the castle anymore? Mum says that ya are wallowin’, and ‘tis not good for ya. She says ya mourn them but haven’ even seen ta their graves. ‘Tis been six months.”
His older brother clapped a hand over his mouth, but it was too late. The reminder of their lineage was there, and Jamie ordered them out for the night. Alone, Jamie watched the candle melt and realized that they were right. Caitrin was right. He’d never once visited their graves, never asked for their forgiveness.
If only I’d been here, I’d have slipped a knife between Androu’s ribs at the first sign of his cowardice.
He tugged on his cloak and made his silent way through the castle and out into the night. Like a ghost drifting down once accustomed paths, the way to the kirkyard felt not quite familiar, but not quite changed.
Late snowflakes fell around him and made the grass slick. Alone, save the moan of the wind, he wound between the stones, looking for Margarete’s resting place, for his father’s.
He found neither.
Though he did not hear her approach, he sensed the presence of his sister a moment before she spoke. “Margarete was buried on our grounds.”
Jamie looked to her sharply. “Why? Would the church not have her?”
Caitrin walked to him, her cloak billowing behind her in the wind. “I thought ya’d like to have her near. She’s under the tree, in the middle of my garden. Ya know how she liked to sit there in the spring.”
“Aye, she did, but would not the kirkyard be better? Near her kin?” Though Jamie couldn’t explain it, he sensed the lie. There was more to it than her excuse. Still, something held him back from pushing it, as if he knew the answer would take what sanity he had left. “And our father?”
Caitrin sucked air between her teeth. “They took his body.”
Jamie clenched his fists and tried to hold back his fury. “An’ they were allowed to? Did no one try to stop them?”
“Androu couldn’t, lest they lose their sympathy for him and Eagan…his opinion meant little to them.”
Jamie stiffened. “He was here then? When…” he couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.
“Aye. But there was naught he could do. He was a visitor, and one who could not be seen in sunlight.”
“And could he not have done something else? Killed those who came? Eagan’s strength is that of ten men!”
“Aye, it is, but he could not risk giving himself away.”
Jamie spun on her, “Giving himself away to whom? Ta you? Androu? Everyone in the castle? But he did! He changed you both, and does not everyone know what ya are now? What we are? Who did he need to keep the secret from?”
She wrung her hands. “Jamie-”
“Was he here when Margarete died?” His sister looked at the ground, refusing to meet his eyes and he demanded again, “Was he?”
“Jamie, what has passed, has passed.”
“’Tis not an answer, Caitrin. Tell me also, how long after Margarete died did they come for Da? I was gone for six months, April ta September. When did they die? What month? What day? When did Eagan come ta ya? When?” He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her with his words, as if he could force the answer out.
“’Twas the difference of three weeks!” she cried and pulled away. “Margarete died the first of June and by the end o’ the month Father…”
“June!” Jamie roared. “She died o’fever in June? What fever took her, besides the one called Androu’s knife. That’s it, isn’t it? Three weeks afore they hung our father, means his plan was already in action, the inquisitors from England may have even been here.” He stopped when he saw her face flicker. “They were, weren’t they? They were already here, perchance had already made their charges, and Margarete- she refused to go along with the farce, didn’t she? So Androu killed her in her sleep and blamed it on a fever! Tell me different!”
“I’ve already told you different! She was sick, she died of fever. There is no more to it, no conspiracy. You seek for a way to avenge it, to make restitution for her death, and so you need someone to blame that you may take your revenge against, but it was not Androu’s doing!”
“Can you say the same for father?”
“Yes!” she shouted. “If anythin’ it was yer fault, yers and father’s. Yer chose to rebel, to meddle in things better left to greater men, ter cause problems when yer shoulda been home with yer wife! Did ya learn nothin’ from Ma? She died alone! Waitin’ fer Da’ to come home!”
“I was gone fightin’ fer her, and fer you! Fer yer freedom!”
“Yer were fightin’ fer yerself, and now yer angry that yer cause took som’in from ya! But all causes must. Our lives, our faith, have to cost us something; otherwise we’re left to question its value. I say as I did, what has passed, has passed. Ya can no more bring back the dead, than ya can change what has happened.” She took his arm and gazed into his face, eyes pleading. “All there is ta do is put it behind us, ta move forward with what we have now.”
“And what is that? Servitude to a man we barely know? A cold bed, and colder days, devoid of sunlight or warmth?”
“’Tis yer own fault ya barely know Eagan. And can ya say the yoke ya wear is so harsh as ta make ya a servant? Ya do not wait upon ‘im, nor cater ta his whims. Ya do as ya please, except-”
“I’m forced to stay here!”
“Aye, as I was sayin’, except ya cannae leave. Is that so terrible a thing?”
He held her gaze. “Aye.”
With a sigh she let him go and stepped back. “I’m sorry that ya feel that way still. I had hoped that time would heal ya some. Perhaps in a year.”
He turned away, eyes on the heavy sky and the falling flakes. “All the years in the world will not be enough, Caitrin.”
Her answer was nearly lost to the wind. “I hope yer wrong.”
But he wasn’t. As each year passed, it became clearer and clearer that he was right. Not that Caitrin had been completely wrong. The yoke they wore was less of servitude and more of companionship, as if their debt was to keep the old man company.
“Is that so bad, lad?” Eagan would ask, a twinkle in his eyes.
Jamie’s answer was always the same. “’Tis the company that makes it so.”
During those years, he was not always idle. He spoke to Caitrin more than once, grilled her on what had happened and how. He even pressed questions on Androu and Eagan, though their answers were confusing. Rechert and the human servants had foggy memories, and as Jamie learned to practice his own magic, he could slip into their minds and see the missing parts, the stolen details, as if someone had snuck in and hid it away on purpose.
The children, meanwhile, grew to men. When they were old enough they’d had the situation explained to them, and given the choice they’d one day face. The eldest chose to remain mortal, took a wife, and gave the family a new generation of children, while the youngest, Simon, insisted he wished to be as they were.
Jamie leaned back in his chair and surveyed the young man. “Are a so sure that is what you want? To be like this, forever?”
“Why not? You and Ma, and Da, and Eagan, you’ve never aged, yer never sick.”
“Nor can we venture out in daylight. Such a curse makes living among others difficult.”
“But it hasn’t,” Simon objected.
“Aye, it has. Or it would if not for Eagan’s magic. He can make the mortals think and remember what he wishes them too, a skill he has handed down. Without that, the humans would notice we do not age, that we do not leave the safety of shadows.”
“Would not such a gift pass down to me as well?”
“I know not, only that once ya do this, ya cannae take it back.”
“Why would I wish to? What could be better than living here forever with ya, and Ma’ and Da’ and-”
Jamie jabbed the poker into the fire. “Nay, lad. This place is cursed, and we are cursed. Touched by the fae, ‘tis true, but stained with the blood of betrayal. The flagons are slick with it, though ya cannae see it. If ya are smart ya will get the gone, and start a wholesome life somewhere else. Besides.” He sat the poker aside. “If you do this, you will owe a debt that lasts many years.”
The boy dropped to his knees. “I know all of that, uncle, and would choose ya to owe such a debt to. Please. Make me as you are.”
Jamie reached for him, then caught himself. “Nay, lad. I cannot. For until the debt is paid, all that we pass the magic to owe the debt to Eagan; that is how I came to be in his servitude. Ya must wait until he releases us.”
As luck would have it, he did not have to wait long. It was Hogmanay, 1668, when Eagan called them all together. They sat around the table before the fire, an imitation of their mortal days when they’d eaten great meals and drank stout by the mugful. Jamie’s eyes wandered to Androu, seated in the chair his father had once occupied. At the thought, he felt the anger rise, and murderous thoughts played through his mind. It was in the middle of one such fantasy that Eagan had stood up.
“Though in some ways I hate ter say it, ’tis been a long enough haul for ye, and yer debt has been paid now. Ya can stay or go as ya please. For myself, I plan to head further afield. I have enjoyed my time here, and though I know yer might be willin’ ter shelter me indefinitely, I feel the call of my ancestral home and plan ter spend some time there afore venturing out again.”
Caitrin and Androu did the polite thing and asked Eagan to stay, but he declined. When the pleasantries were over, Jamie stood, hand on his dirk. “And with the end of our blood debt is the end of my patience, Androu. I have tolerated your taking father’s place because, as the slave of another, I had no choice. With that yoke lifted, I am free to hate you as I choose.”
Caitrin stood, eyes wide, mouth open to interject, but he waved her to silence.
“I have done as I swore I would, my honor is satisfied. I promised once I would leave Androu alive fer ya, Caitrin, an’ I hold to that, though he deserves to be torn apart by wild dogs for both the sake of Father and Margaret. I will keep in his company no longer, nor in yers. Fer father’s sake, may the blessings of the new year be upon ya, though I know not if ya deserve it either.”
Then he swept from the room to his chambers. He tugged out his old bag and had it half-filled when footsteps came outside his door. He turned, expecting Caitrin or Eagan, but instead it was his nephew.
“What do ya want, Simon.”
“Ya cannae leave, Uncle.” The young man laid his hands on the traveling bag, as if to stop Jamie filling it. “Ya promised ta make me as you are.”
“I donnae know how. Ask yer Ma ta do it. She is the one who gave the magic ta me.”
“Nay. I asked ya once before and yer promised ya would, when ya were released by Eagan.”
Jamie didn’t remember promising, only saying the lad had to wait.
“I know how ‘tis done,” Simon added. “I asked Eagan before, and Ma’ as well. Ya must drink my blood first, then when I am all but empty, ya must give me yer blood, ta drink. When I have had enough, I will be one of the fae, too.”
Jamie gently moved his nephew and went back to packing the bag. “Nay. Have yer ma do it. I donnae have the time fer ya to pay a debt ta me.”
“Then take me with ya. Once ya get settled-”
Jamie sighed and closed his eyes.”Nay. I donnae know where I be goin’ or what’ll happen. I donnae need ta worry about a bairn.”
“I’m not a bairn anymore! I’m a man now, and ya know it as well as I. I’m not worried about where ya goin’, be it ta England or Ireland, or beyond. Whether ya be in or out of money, I promise ta serve ya and-”
Simon went on and for a moment – just a moment – Jamie was tempted. In him he saw all the goodness he’d once seen in Caitrin, and in himself. All the possibility and innocence. But just as that made him want to take the lad, it was also the reason he knew he couldn’t.
“Enough!” he snapped. “I will not take ya with me, and that’s the end of it! Go now, afore I have ter beat ya senseless fer aggravating me!”
The boy hesitated, then fled, hurt on his face. Jamie hated to do it that way, but if the lad kept talking, he might have given in. Who knew but that having a human with him might be helpful, and it would be company.
No. Better ta leave clean. No reason ta return.
He stopped at the foot of the large tree, where Margarete was buried. Gently he opened the pouch that hung at his side and tugged lose the lock of red hair.
He knelt, the memory gripped tightly in his hand. “I’m sorry, love. I’m sorry that I wasn’t here, that I couldn’t protect ya from Androu and his machinations. Even more, I’m sorry that I didn’t kill the bastard when I had the chance. Ta leave him alive makes me no better; to fail ta get ya the revenge ya deserve makes me as guilty as him. But I cannae leave Caitlin alone, not unless I want to accept the burden of her care, and I cannot.”
He touched the dirt with fingertips, a gentle caress, the way he’d once traced her cheek. “And I neither can I take ya with me, love. Just as I’m leavin’ Simon, I must leave ya too. I’m sorry.”
He dropped the lock of hair to the ground. For a moment the sight of it; of the red strands mingled with the dusting of snow, made his chest catch, but he stood and turned away before he could change his mind. He’d planned this a hundred times – nay a thousand – and he must let nothing stop him.
Not even Eagan.
The older vampire met him in the stables, sucking on a pipe and looking as jovial as ever. “Ya made yer mind up, then?”
“Aye.” Jamie saddled his newest horse. “Donnae ya try ta talk em out of it either.”
“Nay, I wouldn’t dream of it, lad. Ya must go where ya must go. But donnae forget yer sister. She loves ya.”
“As she loved our father?” Jamie asked dryly. “Would she ‘a let me swing ta save her husband an’ her children?”
Eagan shrugged. “Who can say? Ya should thank the Gods that ya won’t have ta find out.”
Jamie scoffed and swung up on the steed. Eagan stepped back, but caught the horse’s reigns. “Where ye be goin’?”
“I donnae know, but anyplace is better than here, away from the memories and the curse of betrayal that hangs over these stones. Since I woke, healed and confused, I have borne the black mark of the traitor. Though I did not betray my father nor my wife with my own hands, by failing ta get revenge when I had the chance, I am no better. It’s as if I did the deeds myself.”
“Do ya still hold on ta the past?”
“Aye, up ta now ‘tis all I had, but as I leave here, I shed it all. I leave the ghosts behind, and hope ta outrun the curse. ‘Tis only hatred I’ll take with me, because I cannae find a way ta kill it.”
Eagan looked sad for a moment. “I hope for your sake ya learn how ta one day.”
“Aye, so do I.”
And with those final words, Jamie set off into the night, leaving everything he had ever known behind him, bound for anywhere.
Anywhere has to be better than here.
- play time (in blog) 2. playmates 3. tuckered out 4. nap time 5. lazy afternoon 6. toys 7. childhood 8. innocence (in blog) 9. what’s that? 10. eavesdropping 11. is the cat babysitting him? 12. go play 13. This is a hard one. 14. I’m not gonna get it. 15. listening for daddy 16. bored 17. rainy day games 18. waiting 19. I can’t think of any more. 20. I blame Jonathan for not loaning me the voodoo doll.